Ukraine Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:18 pm on 26th January 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Defence) 12:18 pm, 26th January 2023

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. This is an important opportunity to discuss the developments of the past few days.

The UK remains united in its support for Ukraine. The first package of UK military assistance in 2023, with tanks, artillery, infantry vehicles, ammunition and missiles, has Labour’s fullest support. We warmly welcome the announcements from Germany, the US, France and Poland that they will be sending tanks, and that Germany will grant export licences to allow others to follow suit. This will provide more of the equipment that Ukraine needs to win at a pivotal moment. This is an historic move from Germany in particular, and NATO allies continue to move in lockstep to provide vital support.

We also welcome the Tallinn pledge as an important statement of western unity and intent to provide Ukraine with the support it needs. The west is united and we move together at a vital moment for Ukrainian forces. We encourage the Government to continue to work with NATO and European allies to deliver the support Ukraine needs to face down Putin’s aggression. It is now our duty to make sure that Ukraine wins this war. Can the Minister say when he expects Ukrainian troops to begin their training with our Challenger 2 tanks, and when he expects those tanks, and the tanks being sent by NATO allies, to begin to arrive on the frontline?

Labour has argued for months that Ministers need to move beyond ad hoc announcements and set out a long-term plan of support for Ukraine, as they promised last August. Will the Minister commit today to ensuring that that is published before the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? The Prime Minister has rightly identified this as a window of opportunity for a surge in global military support for Ukraine. How will the Minister ensure that there is a surge in UK support? What further support do the Government plan to send this year?

The conflict is also depleting our stockpiles and Ministers are moving too slowly to replace them. What steps is the Minister taking to ramp up production of ammunition and equipment to restock our own armed forces and to support Ukraine? It took 287 days from the start of the invasion for the Defence Secretary to get his act together and sign a new contract to replenish NLAWs—next-generation light anti-tank weapons—for our armed forces and for Ukraine. How many more contracts have been signed to replenish UK stockpiles of the other weapons sent to Ukraine?

Finally, will the Minister now say what bearing these developments will have on the coming refresh of the integrated review? The Defence Secretary has said he will review the size of our tank fleet. Does the Minister think scrapping a third of our Challenger tanks in the original IR was a mistake? We are now at a critical moment in the war. The winter deadlock could soon give way to a spring offensive from Russia and further counter-attacks from Ukraine. As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, the UK and NATO allies must send a clear signal that we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. Putin must be clear that things will get harder for him, not easier, this year.